Sara Poole Interview
August 4, 2010
the author of Poison
It was a privilege to interview Sara Poole on August 4, 2010. Sara is the author of Poison, a novel about a young Italian woman who becomes Cardinal Borgia's poisoner in 1492, as Borgia is scheming to become pope.
Are there documented cases of Renaissance men or women with official poisoners on their staff?
You won't find "poisoner" listed on a household ledger but every great family employed herbalists, perfumers, and apothecaries, at least some of whom may have had more than a passing knowledge of poisons. Poison was, after all, the weapon of choice of the Renaissance, or at least people believed that to be the case. Many common diseases of the day--malaria, typhoid, and cholera, for example--produce symptoms that mimic the effects of various poisons. As a result, whenever a great man or woman died suddenly or after a brief illness, poison was suspected. Nobles and wealthy merchants did everything possible to safeguard themselves and their families from falling victim to it. They may also, on occasion, have used it as a weapon. Certainly, the Borgias are suspected of having done so although their reputation in this regard may be exaggerated.
Cardinal Borgia is a fascinating character, with a surprising number of positive qualities. Did you set out to portray him in this way, or did he surprise you, too?
My characters always surprise me but none more so than Rodrigo Borgia. When I began my research into his life, I had certain preconceptions about him that turned out to be essentially correct, including that he can be thought of as a cross between a corporate chief executive and the don of a crime family. But as he emerged in Poison, he became a much more complex figure, driven not only by personal ambition but by the desire to create a lasting legacy that to a certain extent anticipated a more modern and unified Europe. I also came to the conclusion that much of his depiction in history has been skewed by his enemies, whose fear and envy of him drove them to defame him in any way possible.
At the end of Poison, Borgia still has enemies on the loose and Francesca is still in his employ. Will there be a sequel?
Poison is the beginning of Francesca's account of her life in service to the House of Borgia. I know how and when her story ends but I have no idea how many books it will take to get there. The second book picks up shortly after Poison ends. It will be followed in turn by a third book, which is now in the works.
Review of Poison by Sara Poole
See listing for Poison at Powell's Books
See listing for Poison at Amazon.com
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